May 23, 2011 — The Division for Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society has awarded the prestigious Kuiper Prize in planetary sciences to Dr. William R. Ward, an Institute scientist in the Planetary Science Directorate at Southwest Research Institute® (SwRI®). Ward was selected as the 2011 recipient of the award, named in honor of Gerard P. Kuiper who proposed the existence of the Kuiper Belt, a region of icy objects outside the orbit of Neptune considered to be a source of periodic comets.
The distinction honors scientists whose lifetime achievements have most advanced researchers' understanding of planetary systems. Previous recipients of the Kuiper Prize include Carl Sagan, James Van Allen and Eugene Shoemaker. Ward was recognized for his pioneering theories on how planets form and evolve. He is particularly known for helping to formulate the giant impact theory of lunar formation, discovering the oscillations in Mars' polar axis that drive strong climate variation over time, and discovering numerous aspects of the complex and subtle dynamical interactions between planetary objects and gaseous and particle disks. Ward has also contributed fundamental insights to humankind's understanding of planetesimal formation, the dynamical evolution of the moon, planet migration, planetary spin axis orientations, and the formation of planetary and satellite systems.
"William Ward has for decades made fundamental contributions to our understanding of how planets and satellites form and dynamically evolve," says Dr. Robin Canup, associate vice president of the Planetary Science Directorate. "It is no exaggeration to say that multiple aspects of planetary science would be very different today and might not even be known at all were it not for his pioneering research."
Ward holds bachelor's degrees in mathematics and physics from the University of Missouri (Kansas City) and a doctorate in planetary sciences from the California Institute of Technology. In 2004, he received the prestigious Brouwer Award from the AAS Division on Dynamical Astronomy. He was elected a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union in 2005 and a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2006.
He will receive the award in October 2011 during the joint meeting of the AAS Division for Planetary Sciences/European Planetary Science Congress in Nantes, France, where he will also give a plenary lecture.
For more information, contact Maria Stothoff, (210) 522-3305, Communications Department, Southwest Research Institute, PO Drawer 28510, San Antonio, TX 78228-0510.